366 Songs 154: Bad Ambassador

It sounds like an odd thing to say, but what I love most about “Bad Ambassador” by the Divine Comedy – probably my favorite song from the band, although I suspect I’m almost alone in that – is the tension between all the moving parts; the rising piano and strings as Neil Hannon’s voice sinks, singing “I wanna hold your hand/Hey, what’s your favorite band, honey?” or the way that the piano’s four notes at 2:19 act as a period, ending the tentative “Maybe some other time” (Notice the short rises and falls of the instruments in the background, as if it’s hopes rising and being pushed down by nerves, before those notes, and then everything swells amazingly, incredibly).

It’s such an unashamedly emotional song, so dramatic and aching with unrequited passion (Think of the way that the song is just a list of what Hannon wants to do, including “Play with the big boys/I wanna ride with the tough guys/On a Japanese motorbike,” but, as he goes on say, “Maybe some other time…”). The song even ends with a long fade that makes you think of ellipses, unfulfilled promise. It’s a song where the music is the text as much as the lyrics, one that tells a story in under four minutes and in that short time make you want the best for the character singing. Good job, Neil Hannon.

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